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What to do if your child is being bullied in your new town

While you should expect your child to need a period of time to open up to a new environment, it's important to note especially negative behavior, as it could hint at something more serious.

As October is National Bullying Prevention Month, it's necessary to draw awareness to the difficulty children can experience while adjusting to life after moving. They can find it difficult to cope with missing their friends, having to make new ones and finding comfort in a new place. While you should expect your child to need a period of time to open up to a new environment, it's important to note especially negative behavior, as it could be signs of something more serious. Bullying has always been a concern for parents, but now with social media keeping children connected at all times, the impact can be much worse.

Identifying bullying

Oftentimes, parents and teachers are the last to know about an issue with bullying, as children don't always reveal the problem to an adult. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services noted that this could be for a few different reasons. First, they may not want to seem weaker than they're already being portrayed. Telling an adult could be considered "tattling," which they feel could worsen the situation. They may also be hesitant to report issues because they're embarrassed. Being bullied can be a humiliating experience, and reliving it with an adult, even one who is trusted and respected, could cause them to shy away from it.

If your child refuses to tell you, the source recommended noting any major changes to his or her eating habits or fake illnesses to avoid going to school. Although this could be attributed to the stress of being in a new school, it could also hint at something more serious. Be extra cautious of declining grades, especially if he or she is typically a conscientious student, and address your concerns with a teacher if your child repeatedly comes home from school with injuries or lost items. All of these could be serious signs that your child is experiencing issues with another student at school.

Cyberbullying is another way students can put down others. A new form of verbal abuse that is more prevalent than ever, it can be just as damaging to a child's self-esteem as physical or in-person bullying. If you notice your child is spending an excessive amount of time online and gets especially upset if you try to moderate technology, it could mean that he or she is being harassed.

It can also be difficult to differentiate regular issues from bullying. Everyone is bound to experience conflict at some point in their younger years. However, there are ways of identifying a cause of concern. Talk to your child to get the details of each confrontation so you can better determine the next steps. According to ParentFurther, an online resource for parental support, conflict must have the following four characteristics to be classified as bullying: it must be intentional, hurtful, repetitive and there must be an imbalance of power. 

What you can do

Once you get the facts, you may want to contact your child's school. Depending on their policies, they could require a formal meeting involving you and your child, as well as the other child and his or her guardian. By letting the school know, you're making teachers and the principal aware that there's an issue, and they'll be more likely to note any issues that follow. The child who's causing the issues may also back down once he or she knows that there are serious repercussions of hurtful actions.

Monitoring your child's social media networks can also help provide you with insight into whether progress is being made or if the situation is worsening. If you notice any threatening or rude remarks on your child's page, it's important to first address them with him or her before taking any action. While your intentions are good, you could come across as overprotective or defensive, which could discourage your child from being open with you.

ParentFurther recommended urging your child to get involved in afterschool activities that could help boost self-esteem and provide him or her with a solid group of friends. Having a social network to turn to can help your child cope with difficulties at school, and it can also assist with adjusting to a new home. Encouraging him or her to explore interests and get involved with like-minded individuals can be the extra push needed to be more outgoing and make new friends. Kids can also stay in touch via phone and electronic means as allowed in their homes. Let your child know that, even after you change your address, it's possible to keep in touch with your friends.

The source also noted that, while it may seem counterintuitive to place more pressure on your child when he or she is going through a difficult transition, it's more important than ever to make them strive for excellence. Setting goals for schoolwork and extracurricular activities makes him or her more likely to stay on track, and it also leaves you better equipped to recognize an issue. If he or she doesn't meet a goal, you can investigate whether it wasn't met because of trouble with other students, or if it was because of other natural reasons.

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